Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci has been asked to review whether documents pertaining to the transfer of Afghan detainees can be released to Parliament.

The federal government has asked a former Supreme Court of Canada judge to review whether there would be "injurious" effects if some Afghan detainee documents were made public.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Friday in the House of Commons he was appointing Frank Iacobucci to go over documents relating to the handing over of detainees to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces.

"In the case of injurious information, he will report to me on whether the information or a summary of it can be disclosed and report on the form of disclosure or any conditions on disclosure," Nicholson said.

He called it "an independent, comprehensive review."

Nicholson did not give full details on Iacobucci's assignment or a timetable for when the review might be completed.

"With respect to the terms and parameters, I will make those available as quickly as possible," Nicholson said.

Opposition parties have been trying to get the Conservative government to release the documents pertaining to the handling of Afghan detainees without heavily blacked-out redactions.

The opposition wants to see if government documents contain information dealing with the risk of torture in Afghan jails for suspected Taliban fighters handed over by Canadian troops.

A special Commons committee has been investigating the issue for months and has heard that the government had clear warnings about torture, but continued to transfer detainees.

Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff said he approved of the appointment of Iacobucci, and said he hoped the respected former jurist would "be given the terms of reference necessary to do the job."

Stalling tactic, says NDP critic

NDP MP Paul Dewar said on the surface the move appears to be a "stalling tactic" and he expressed disappointment that the government would not choose to work with other parliamentarians to determine what was and wasn't an issue of national security.

Liberal MP Derek Lee, who had been preparing a motion alleging the government has breached the privilege of Parliament by its refusal to comply to the request for the complete documents, said he didn't understand the need for an outside assessment.

"I would have thought that the government would already have people capable of determining what documents needed protection," he said.

Iacobucci is a former law professor and deputy justice minister who served on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1991 to 2004.

He also headed an inquiry into whether the detentions of El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin resulted from the actions of CSIS, the RCMP and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In his report released in October 2008, Iacobucci concluded that the three men were indeed tortured.

He also said the actions of the RCMP and CSIS indirectly led to the torture of El Maati; "two actions of the RCMP" indirectly led to the torture of Almalki; and that certain instances of information sharing by CSIS and RCMP officials indirectly led to the torture of Nureddin.

With files from The Canadian Press